Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

EU told ExxonMobil that TTIP would aid global expansion, documents reveal
The European Union’s trade commissioner told the multinational oil company ExxonMobil that a major free trade deal being negotiated with the US would help remove obstacles to fossil fuel development in Africa and South America, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Energy and Climate Change

Seas are rising faster now than any time in the last 2800 years, scientists say
A group of scientists says it has now reconstructed the history of the planet’s sea levels arcing back over some 3000 years – leading it to conclude that the rate of increase experienced in the 20th century was “extremely likely” to have been faster than during nearly the entire period.

New York launches ‘50 by 30’ clean energy plan
New York officials have launched a new plan to cover 50 per cent of the state’s power needs with renewables by 2030. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed regulators to formulate a new plan in December and the New York Department of Public Service (NYDPS) released the plan last week. The “50 by 30” Clean Energy Standard (CES) follows the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, and provides the necessary target and framework to achieve the state policy.

Is it time to face farming facts?
NEW ZEALAND – In 2012, the government committed to review the exclusion of agriculture from the ETS but, despite that commitment, the sector is not even being considered in the current review. Agriculture makes up almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases through emissions of methane and nitrous oxide… farmers could make changes to their systems now to address nitrous oxide emissions from changing the nitrogen cycles on farms.

AGL updates energy management app to include solar performance data
AUSTRALIA – AGL Energy has launched an updated version of its mobile phone app that will allow solar customers to monitor the performance of their rooftop PV panels and – “in future” – to choose when to sell excess solar generation back to the grid. The update, says AGL, adds real-time analytics about the performance and efficiency of a customer’s rooftop solar system to the app’s existing electricity and gas consumption data.

SolarReserve proposes 110MW solar tower and storage plant for Australia
The US solar tower and thermal storage technology developer SolarReserve has operated its first-of-its-kind Crescent Dunes plant in the US at its full capacity of 110MW, and is now targeting Australia as its next market. The company said on Tuesday it had proposed to build a 110MW plant – with eight hours storage – just north of Port Augusta in South Australia, and had submitted the plan to the state government’s tender for low-carbon energy.

‘Limited’ future for gas in the UK without carbon capture
Gas will have a severely limited role to play in the UK’s energy mix in the next two decades without the development of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide, a new report has found. The government has been proposing an expansion of gas use as a “bridging” technology that emits less carbon than coal, which ministers have said will be phased out as a power generation source by 2025.  But, according to a study published on Tuesday by the respected UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), the scope for gas without carbon capture and storage (CCS) is “very limited”.

British power stations are burning wood from US forests – to meet renewables targets
Last year, 6m tonnes of “wood pellets” harvested from forests in Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Virginia were shipped across the Atlantic, to be burnt in renewable “biomass” power plants. This was almost double the 2013 figure – the US “wood pellet” industry is booming. Demand is largely driven by European countries wanting to meet targets set out in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

India to double renewables budget to $1.5bn
India’s Ministry of New & Renewable Energy is aiming to secure a budget of Rs 10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) for the next financial year, more than double the amount it received last year. It would be a significant increase compared to the Rs 4,500 crore ($670 million) allocated in the previous budget.

Environment and Biodiversity

Bleak Picture of Great Barrier Reef’s Changing Chemistry
As greenhouse gas pollution reshapes the invisible mosaic of seawater chemicals washing over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, corals there are being locked in escalating conflicts with each other for survival. A modeling-based study by Australian government scientists has tracked ocean acidification for the first time through all of the thousands of reefs comprising the psychedelic ecosystem, which is home to fish, sharks, dolphins and dugongs. The study was published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

Underwater cameras to help study shrinking size of Great Southern reef fish
Underwater cameras are being used to investigate concerns about the declining size of fish along reefs in Western Australia’s Great Southern. As part of a program supported by Curtin University, community volunteers are scuba driving on reefs at King George Sound, Two People’s Bay and Cosy Corner to collect footage of fish for analysis.

Specially designed flowerpots installed on Sydney Harbour seawalls
AUSTRALIA – Marine ecologists have had a chance to show their green thumbs on a new foreshore project which brings specially designed flowerpots to Sydney Harbour’s seawalls. The project features 60 concrete pots, some lined with coconut-fibre mats, attached to foreshore seawalls as a way of attracting and protecting vulnerable marine life. Researchers hope the pots will continue the success of a Glebe foreshore trial project, where at least 28 new species, such as starfish, crabs, algae and smaller fish varieties were recorded in Blackwattle Bay.

Aboriginal fire management – part of the solution to destructive bushfires
AUSTRALIA – As destructive bushfires become more common there is increasing political discussion how we manage them sustainably. Inevitably these debates raise questions of the past ecological effects of Aboriginal fire usage.

Wedge-tailed eagle numbers continue to soar after years of being shot or poisoned
Australia’s largest bird of prey is bucking a trend and flourishing in numbers while other species continue to struggle with urban development and a declining population. Researchers say numbers of the wedge-tailed eagle across Australia are finally on the right side of the ledger, after dropping to near critical numbers following years of them being shot for reportedly killing lambs and other small farm animals.

Australia's largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, soaring high above a paddock in Margaret River. ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia

Australia’s largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, soaring high above a paddock in Margaret River. ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia

Oil and gas seismic survey impacts on pearling industry raise concerns in government report
AUSTRALIA – …”There does seem to be good research that says that these seismic surveys that are done by oil and gas companies right over the top of oyster beds and their breeding grounds, do really impact on the productivity and the health and the reproductive capacity of the oysters,” the committee’s deputy chair Alannah MacTeirnan told Vanessa Mills on ABC Kimberley Local Radio.

Economy and Business

Green investment bank ‘no longer required by law to invest in green projects’
UK – …Campaigners said that changes proposed on Tuesday by small business minister Anna Soubry effectively delete the clause enshrined in legislation that gives the green investment bank its green purpose. But ministers insist the bank’s green mission will still be protected through a ‘special share’.

Half of the world agrees carbon markets crucial to tackling climate change: ICAP report
Now the Paris Agreement has been secured, implementing climate pledges made by the world’s countries is the next step to curbing rising global temperatures and spurring a prosperous, low carbon economy. To achieve that, carbon markets will play a crucial role, a new report by the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP) shows.

States act on Clean Power Plan despite court hold: Join them
Businesses are sitting down with environmental groups and state officials in Virginia, Colorado, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa and elsewhere to figure out the best way for their state to comply with the Clean Power Plan. Yes, the Supreme Court has put a hold on enforcement of the CPP — the Obama administration’s directive that power plants reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels in 15 years — until pending court challenges are litigated.  But many states are proceeding with planning anyway, convening stakeholders to talk about what they think the compliance should look like.

solarcity introduces NZ’s first affordable solar battery storage service
NEW ZEALAND – …thanks to a price and technology breakthrough, [solarcity] has launched solarZero+ combining solar generation with storage using Panasonic’s state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries. This service allows homeowners to store excess solar energy generated during the day so it can can be used at night and when grid prices are high. The technology even learns your home’s energy profile and can buy power from the grid at times when the rates are low and store it for use at expensive peak times.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Circular economy offers “wealth of opportunity for U.S.”
Trash to Treasure: Changing Waste Streams to Profit Streams, a new report launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, focuses on waste in American companies and industries, and argues that the circular economy represents an economic opportunity, as well as being a model that reduces waste.

Consumers Love E-Commerce’s Convenience, But Not Its Cardboard
While consumers are becoming more comfortable with online shopping and are enjoying the convenience it can bring, there are growing concerns around its environmental impact. The human desire for instant gratification is driving faster and faster delivery services for e-commerce, and that quick service carries a hefty impact.

SA Rural Woman of the Year to tackle food waste
AUSTRALIA – Food waste is sapping millions of dollars each year from the horticulture supply chain and Robbie Davis is making it her mission to reduce the waste. Ms Davis’ project to reduce food waste has seen her named 2016 South Australian Rural Woman of the Year by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).

Politics and Society

Why getting children to ‘engage with nature’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
Fears about the lack of time spent outdoors have prompted high-profile campaigns to encourage a “free-range, nature rich, outdoor childhood”. Now I spent a huge proportion of my youth doing exactly the kind of tree-climbing and roaming this movement advocates. I’ve worked for conservation organisations involved in these campaigns, and I’ve researched how people benefit from gardens. So why do pleas to get children back into nature leave me a little uneasy?

Marie Kondo tells us to ditch joyless items but where are we sending them?
Earlier this year, Ikea’s head of sustainability said at a Guardian Sustainable Business event that consumers in the developed world had reached “peak stuff”. The success of Japanese de-cluttering icon and best-selling author Marie Kondo suggests he’s not the only one who thinks so.  The praise and enthusiasm for the KonMari method, which is Kondo’s approach of only keeping items that “spark joy”, signal that attitudes in an increasingly disposable world are shifting… However, its popularity also raises important sustainability questions. Where are we sending all these joyless garments once we’re done with them? And alongside our fervour to rid our lives of excess, are we addressing our patterns of accumulation at the source?

Built Environment

Government urged to steer green housing policy ‘away from future misery’
The Government will create ‘future misery’ for homeowners if it doesn’t reverse its decision to scrap the zero-carbon homes requirement and Code for Sustainable Homes, the National Policy for the Built Environment Committee has said.

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Idea for Sonic Tubular Travel Gets Real
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts—The future of ultrafast tubular travel may be partly shaped in this room on the third floor of MIT’s Edgerton Center, where a team of graduate students huddle in front of computers. They’ve done calculations and simulations to design a levitating pod that could transport people at hundreds of miles an hour.

Experts bust some myths on the value of electric vehicles
NEW ZEALAND – Hot on the heels of a collaborative meeting SBN organised on electric vehicles, which saw our target of an additional 1000 electric vehicles in NZ by the end of 2018 increased to 5000, experts from our Network bust some myths.


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